SF Giants prospects to watch at ACL
4. P.J. Hilson, OF
If you’ve followed my prospect coverage, you know how intrigued I’ve been by outfielder P.J. Hilson. The Giants sixth-round pick in the 2018 draft, Hilson was given an over-slot signing bonus to forego his commitment to the University of Alabama. From a family of track stars, Hilson had never been on the travel ball circuit but made waves the summer before his senior year of high school with a combination of plus-plus speed and arm strength (he has been clocked reaching 92 mph on the mound).
Having never played against premium talent in high school, the jump to the pros was always going to be difficult. He played exclusively in the Arizona League in 2018 and 2019 where his hit tool caused his strikeout rate to reach concerningly high levels (36.7%). His OPS improved by 46 points from 2018 to 2019 but generated an abysmal .220/.310/.346 line.
Still, Hilson has the tools to become the best defensive outfielder in MLB with game-changing speed on the basepaths. If he can become even a below-average (40-grade) big-league hitter, there’s a path to becoming a legitimate contributor. Hilson was a young high schooler when he was drafted, and is younger than most of the college players in this summer’s draft. There’s plenty of time for him to make those necessary adjustments.
In an interview last season, Hilson told me he felt like he had to put his “breakout year” on hold in 2020 after refining his swing all offseason. That positive buzz has continued building into this year. Giants minor league hitting coordinator Michael Brdar told Melissa Lockard of The Athletic that Hilson is beginning to “really put it together,” and noted that “Hilson is really fun to watch. Has every tool in the world.”
Hilson will have to make a massive jump from his 2019 production to become a well-regarded prospect in a Giants system already filled with outfielders. However, he has the tools to stand out among such a deep group if his bat takes the necessary steps.